The teacher's demonstration at the school board on Tuesday night was somewhat of a success. Being surrounded by a couple hundred of my colleagues gave me four insights about teachers:

1. We can be just as rebellious as our students.

I was standing in the lobby along with around a hundred other teachers because there was no more room in the actual board room. We watched the proceedings on the TV screen. At the very beginning, some important Lady of The Board pounded her gavel and said: "Because we already know that everyone in the room will concur with what will be said, let's keep the clapping to a minimum so as to move this right along". Well what effect do you think that had? We clapped and hooted and hollered after EVERY speaker. Even halfway through, when she gave us a stern reminder, we continued. Apparently we don't follow directions well. Perhaps if she had been offering stickers as an incentive we might have listened.

2. Teachers don't shut up.

Even though we harp on our students to BE QUIET WHEN I AM TALKING, we cannot be expected to follow the same standard. More than once, the gatherers in the back room (where I was standing) were kindly asked by a fellow teacher to stop talking. We paused to listen, but continued at the same volume until the screen actually showed the proceedings. Even then, there was quieter talking throughout the room. The problem is, we hardly get to see our colleagues except at boring meetings or as we pass each other in the halls. We're just so thankful to be with friends who are just as fed up with student [and administration] antics as we are, that we can't help talking!

3. Teachers are self-important.

The logic is, since we have one of the most important jobs on Earth, we should be paid as such, and we should feel valued by our district. Plain and simple.

4. Teachers can't be expected to function after 8 o'clock PM.

Although I'm sure this one is true in most other professions as well, it struck me that the teachers at the board meeting started dropping like flies around 8 o'clock. I saw many tired, haggard faces walk by on the way to the parking lot. Suckers. I at least lasted until 8:15.

Bored Meeting

Tonight, I've been guilted into going to the board meeting to show my support for teacher salary increases. Apparently we're the lowest paid district in the county and "we're not happy about it". I feel funny about going because I'm pretty sure that I (and I alone) am the single highest paid second year teacher IN THE NATION. Although I technically only have my B.S, I have a special credential, and the district has credited me with 60 extra credits.... also, CA has higher salaries because of our higher standard of living. I'm sure if someone from, say, Mississippi looked at my paycheck they might just keel over from shock (and envy).

But the big paycheck needs to be bigger because we're the lowest paid district in the county and that is "not acceptable".

I'll let you know if the board members cower in fear at the sheer number of teachers (all dressed in "intimidating" black) and give in to our demands. It might get ugly. Watch the 11 o'clock news for the exciting conclusion.

Slimy Fun

Springtime means birds. Birds mean worms. Worms mean....dirt! Edible dirt, that is!

On Friday we combined chocolate pudding, crushed cookies, and gummy worms into one delightful snack. The kids went to town with it, grossing me out by slurping up their pudding-covered worms, or leaving parts of worms hanging out of their mouths. Ahh, to be nine again...

The Mommy in Me

Sometimes my students forget that I'm their teacher and they call me "mom" or "mommy". I think it's pretty funny when it happens, but they giggle nervously and look around them to make sure no one heard their mistake. Because they are just old enough to be embarrassed by a slip like that, that's why.

Lately, I've been feeling like more of a mom than a teacher to two of my students who are mainstreaming out for a thirty-day trial in math. For one hour every morning, I walk them around the block to a general ed. second grade classroom (our school is kind of a split campus between grades K-2 and 3-6) so they can learn math with their peers. There are definitely gaps in their knowledge of the math content, but after some testing and some reflection, I decided to try it. They started this adventure on Wednesday, and I have been so worried about it... I was having nightmares that the whole thing would be a disaster. When I walked them over for the first time, I kept having these nagging thoughts: "Are the other kids going to make fun of their hearing aids?", "Will their desk partners be helpful?", "Will they be teased when they say the wrong thing?", "Will the content be too hard?", "Will anyone play with them at recess?", "Should I just turn around and go back?". When I dropped them off at the right classroom, I almost gave them a hug before I left (they were fine; the hugs were to calm my own nerves...). I actually lingered in the background for a good twenty minutes to make sure they were settled... not unlike an over-protective mother dropping her firstborn off in Kindergarten, hovering until the teacher dropped a hint that it was time to leave!

It was helpful that the audiologist came with me and explained to these second graders how their FM systems worked and why their teacher would be wearing a microphone. To my relief, the kids were quite excited to have my students with them for an hour everyday. It turns out that the other kids are really eager to play with them, and eager to help them out in the classroom as well.

So apparently my kiddos are going to be just fine, and I can start acting like a teacher again, and less like a mom!

A Case of Cursive

Learning cursive is a sort of milestone in elementary school. I remember it was a huge deal when I was growing up. Well, things are no different in my classroom. Third grade is the year of Cursive, and we have officially begun teaching it in Room 33. I say "we" to mean "my aide". I never learned to write in cursive the American Way (surprisingly, the French Way is quite different), so I find myself unqualified to teach this particular skill (shh! Don't tell anyone!). Plus, my aide has the patience of a saint so she is uber-qualified to teach cursive.

Yesterday was the grand kickoff. I made the executive decision that three of my ten students would not be participating in the cursive lessons; two have issues with cerebral palsy that affect their fine motor skills, and the other is barely legible when he prints (cause unknown). Two of these three were very understanding and sat down to practice their printing. One student (one with mild cerebral palsy), was obviously disappointed. He is working overtime to show me that he is capable of printing well. As it turns out, he's almost succeeded in convincing me. It turns out, all these months he was just being lazy with his handwriting: when he concentrates and tries hard, his printing is acceptable. Apparently he just needed the right motivation to shape up.

I still haven't decided if he's truly ready for cursive yet (I also factor in the fact that he's a second grader), but I'll see how far he's willing to take things to prove himself to me. Who knows? Maybe I'll get to be the one that teaches him that sometimes hard work DOES pay off!

Kids Love Ham

I'm back. I survived.

Being around eight teenage girls gave me some perspective:
  1. Deaf people are lucky because THEY CAN TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!
  2. Although they were loud, giggly, and obnoxious, I must confess that I was just as bad, if not worse, when I was fourteen and fifteen.
  3. Nobody wants a teenager, everybody wants a baby... the difference is that the baby is still adorable despite the screaming. [Everybody except Max, who is reading over my shoulder. But he's only saying it to be contrary, so it doesn't count.]
  4. I know these girls are nice, but there is something about the unabashed love my students have for me, as well as their sincere desire to please me that makes me feel needed and appreciated. I don't know what admitting that says about me, but oh well. I prefer kids under ten, who aren't trying to be cool, who don't have glaring insecurities to deal with, and who would LOVE to spend time with me! Also, I can be a total ham and they wouldn't think of me any differently :).

Why I Teach Second and Third Graders:

After spending all week with children/students who absolutely love me, I get to go to Big Bear with the youth group and spend a whole weekend with teenagers who will absolutely ignore me.

I'm sure I'll be back on Monday feeling every one of my twenty-four years.

Thanks, but No Thanks

A telling sign of a good school is collaboration. How often do teachers get together to share ideas/frustrations/strategies? Or do they? I have been extremely lucky to land in a very collaborative school--because I wouldn't be as good of a teacher if I didn't have everyone's collective experience at my disposal to learn from. Any time I need advice, there are lots of people I could turn to. Sometimes I am just sharing a frustration and one of my colleagues will jump in with "You know what worked for me?".

And that's great. WHEN IT HAPPENS AT SCHOOL.

What I don't understand is why total strangers at the grocery store think it's perfectly appropriate to give me unsolicited advice on the food items I may or may not be buying. About a month ago, I was standing in the checkout line with garlic bread and "Ragu" spaghetti sauce. A random guy in front of me turns and says: "You know, I'm a chef [oh really?], and if you just add half a cup of sugar and a whole bay leaf in the sauce, it will taste really great--like it's homemade". I think I thanked him for the tip, but inwardly I was thinking NO WAY. Because I happen to like the pure and natural taste of "Ragu" sauce just the way it is, thank you very much.

Then, just today, I was looking in the frozen pie section and thinking of surprising Max with a pie in honor of Pi day (3/14, get it?), when all of a sudden, a woman comes up behind me and starts giving me her unsolicited advice. She was saying something about how to make a really easy pie with fruit, lemon juice, sugar, and corn starch. Regardless of the fact that I will probably try her recipe one day, what is it about me that compels people to share advice??

But I Don't Wanna Go To Bed!

I should be in bed right now, but I'm procrastinating. I can do that because tomorrow is a "non-student" day for parent-teacher conferences. Lucky me, I teach special ed--so that means I only have ten sets of parents to see instead of thirty. So tomorrow I have an IEP in the morning, then one little p-t conference, and sweet freedom for the rest of the day. Ahhh, I love conference week. After my colleagues and I go out for lunch tomorrow (it's tradition on the Wednesday of conference week), I'll have the rest of the time to catch up on all of my planning. Woo hoo!!

Part 2: Like Father, Like Daughter

But this time, it really wasn't my fault. Max made me do it.

I filled out a bracket-thingy for March Madness. Apparently a random-guess bracket like mine has just as much of a chance of winning as a well-informed one. Who knew? Max evaluated my bracket decisions afterward, and I could tell he was getting a kick out of talking basketball with The Wife. Apparently, now I am supposed to be glued to the TV and check scores compulsively.

We'll see.

On the school front, parent-teacher conferences are going very well so far!

Like Father, Like Daughter

I have a persistent habit during the school year: every night before I go to bed, I lay out my outfit for the next day. I used to laugh at my father for doing this exact same thing, but as it turns out, I have the same problem. I even take it one step further and lay out my breakfast for the morning. I pour the cereal, lay out two lactaid pills, and put out a tea bag next to my bowl. While some may think this is "obsessive", I think it's "organized". I just can't be bothered with the pesky details of choosing an outfit or preparing my breakfast so early in the morning. I like to be on "auto-pilot"--sort of like a zombie going through the same motions every morning on the way to work. (But even though I love my routine, I gladly give it up in the summer). If I don't have everything laid out the night before, I kind of freak out in the morning; I feel rushed, and then I don't have a good day.

But it's not a problem, really, I promise....


Not unlike becoming werewolves at the sight of a full moon, my kids have become monsters-- bearing claws and howling into the night. I'm not exactly sure when the full moon appeared, but it was sometime in January. All I know is, I have never been so furious with my students. By the end of the day, I was reading the riot act to my entire class--the closest I have been to yelling.

The day started out great. It was author's day and Deborah Turner spoke to the school about her book: "How Willy Got His Wheels". It's a true story about a rescued chihuahua whose back legs didn't work. Deborah tried helium balloons and a skateboard to help him walk but nothing worked until she found a special doggie wheelchair in a magazine. Now he uses his front legs and his wheels in the back and rolls around, appearing on TV and in assemblies around the world. It was very cool because she brought Willy with her and all the kids got to pet him. At the end of the assembly, she gave one of my girls a postcard with a picture of Willy on the front.

One of my werewolves decided it would be appropriate to take the postcard from her at lunch and flush it down the toilet in the boys' bathroom. The entire bathroom flooded as a result, the plumbing was backed up, and the janitor had to close all the boys' bathrooms down to fix the problem. My little girl was crying so hard, it might as well have been Willy himself that he flushed down that toilet.

During afternoon recess, another one of my werewolves purposefully excluded a student (one of MY deaf students who is fully mainstreamed in a different class) by saying: "You can't play with us, you're not in our class!!". The words sounded even more spiteful to me as I remembered that this student is having a hard time dealing with real bullies in his general ed. class.

Yet another of my little monsters, after my aide asked him to sit out of the dodge ball game for rough-housing, picked up a rock and hit a random boy who happened to be walking by. For no discernible reason.

At this point in time, I am ready to howl at the moon myself.

A Disconcerting Truth

Today, as I was eating lunch in the lounge, I overheard some teachers (who were not THAT old) talking about how back in the "day", there were clear cut heart-throbs like Clark Gable, Dean Martin, etc. And today, there doesn't seem to be any one actor that every girl is drooling over. They looked over at me and asked if I could think of any popular heart-throbs that every girl loved. I didn't know.... Jude Law? Brad Pitt? At this point my aide chimed in with: "You know who I really like? That Howie Mandel!"

I looked at her to find out if she was serious. She was.

The Lighter Side

There is lots going on at work. LOTS. Between district testing, IEP testing, IEP writing (I have two in the next week), planning for parent-teacher conferences next week, trying to put together my St. Patrick's Day unit, getting things ready for my new student (yes folks, that would be number 11!), and all the other daily stuff I need to do to keep my classroom running, I'm left feeling like this.

But instead of sharing the headaches, I'll share the lighter moments:

1. One of my students, as we were walking toward the bus at the end of the day, looked up at me and asked: "What grade you?".
"Grade??? I'm finished with all the grades. I did all of them!"
"What?!?!?!?!?! But Mrs. L say she 17 grade".
[And apparently Mrs. L thought it would be funny to take advantage of his naivety. It was.]

2. Yesterday, as I was walking to my desk, one of my students said "Sorry Mrs. B" quite sheepishly. "Why?" I inquired (suspiciously). "I roop". "You did what?" Then he made a gesture clearly indicating a burp and said "I roop!" Ohhhhhhh. A roop. Of course!

3. The other day I was teaching irregular plurals. I explained that when there's only one, we call it "singular". Pointing to the word "singular" on the board, one of my students piped up with "Noooooo, that's the phone!"
[get it? get it? Cingular? The phone company? Oh. Guess you had to be there...]

4. When my students tasted cottage cheese yesterday, I was surprised to find out how many of them didn't like it! When they went to write about it, one student (my slacker) felt SO strongly about it, he took the trouble to look up the word "nasty" in the dictionary. Hmmm. I suppose that's an A for effort...

Food Frenzy

My kids (and I) are really getting into this nutrition unit. Monday we tried pomelo, Tuesday we had mango, and on Wednesday, I felt like being a little mean, so I brought radishes in for their "taste books" (I know, I know...). They took one look at those little red bulbs with the roots sticking out and declared "I don't like it". "New rule", I said, "no saying 'I don't like it' until you've tried it" (so much for the declaration I made to my parents a long time ago that I would never utter those words to my kids). Everyone got half a radish. On "three", we tasted it. On about "five", we all said "Ewwww". Well, at least I got to introduce new vocabulary words like "gross" and "bitter", so it wasn't all for nothing.

Today I wanted to make it up to them so I brought in a papaya. Papayas are sweet fruit so I thought I would easily win them all back. Unfortunately, I managed to pick the only ripe papaya that tasted more bitter than an orange peel. It was very disappointing. I'm not sure they will trust whatever I hand them tomorrow. We shall see...
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